Dentistry is an art as well as a science; dental crowns offer a perfect example of this. A dental crown or “cap” is a covering that fits over a damaged, decayed or unattractive tooth. It can even replace a tooth entirely as part of dental bridgework.
A crown completely covers a tooth above the gum line. This is in contrast to a dental veneer, which only covers a tooth's front surface and needs natural tooth structure to support it. Therefore, if a tooth is missing a significant amount of structure above the gum line, a crown would be the restoration of choice.
Crowns strengthen damaged teeth, allowing them to function normally again.
There are various types of crowns, ranging from full porcelain to full metal. Your dentist will explain the advantages and disadvantages of each kind for you.
Crowns may also be used to securely attach a bridge if the surrounding teeth by themselves are inadequate to do so. A bridge is a dental appliance that is used to replace one or more missing teeth. They are designed to be cosmetically appealing and also to restore proper occlusion. Like crowns, bridges are fully customizable and made of various materials, including porcelain and metals. Although not as permanent as a cap, bridges are bonded to surrounding teeth and only removable by your dentist.
Both crowns and bridges are created to match the color, height, texture and overall appearance of your teeth. Most crowns and bridges will last for life, eliminating the need to replace them unless they fall out or become loose. You may prolong the durability of your crowns and bridges by practicing good oral hygiene and visiting your dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings.
Crowning or Capping a Tooth
Crowning or capping a tooth will usually take two to three visits. At the first visit, we will prepare your tooth to receive its new crown. First we will shape it to fit inside the new covering. This will involve some drilling to give the tooth a uniform shape. We will numb the tooth and the surrounding area beforehand. If there is very little tooth structure left to begin with, we may have to build up the tooth with filling material, rather than remove tooth structure, to support the crown.
After the tooth is prepared, we will take impressions of your teeth, either digitally or with reliable, putty-like impression materials, and send them to the dental laboratory. There, the impressions will be used to make models of your teeth for the creation of a crown. The models will serve as guides to the highly skilled lab technicians, who will ensure that your new crown is designed to enhance your smile and function well within your bite.
Before you leave the office, we will attach a temporary crown to your tooth to protect it until the permanent crown is ready. At the second visit, your permanent crown will be attached to your tooth with either a resin that hardens when exposed to a special light source, or a type of permanent cement.
Creating a Bridge
Crowns can also be used to create a lifelike replacement for a missing tooth. This is done with bridgework, which spans the space of the missing tooth and requires at least three crowns. Two of those crowns will be placed over healthy teeth on either side of the missing tooth; these healthy teeth are referred to as abutment teeth. The two crowned abutment teeth become supports for a third crown placed in between them; that third crown is referred to as a pontic. If more than one tooth is missing, more crowns will be needed to bridge the gap in between the abutment teeth.
Caring for Crowns & Bridgework
Crowns and bridgework require the same conscientious care as your natural teeth. Be sure to brush and floss between all of your teeth — restored and natural — every day to reduce the buildup of dental plaque. When you have crowns, it is even more important to maintain your regular schedule of cleanings here at the dental office. Avoid using your teeth as tools (to open packages, for example). If you have a grinding habit, wearing a night guard would be a good idea to protect your teeth and your investment.